We love surveys. We love to give them attention they don’t deserve and this week, two surveys from the same organization caught our attention.
The first, which I won’t belabor, was a Pew survey that said “the public’s assessment of the accuracy of news stories is now at its lowest level in more than two decades of Pew Research surveys, and Americans’ views of media bias and independence now match previous lows.” Sounds interesting, but I posit that it doesn’t necessarily mean stories are (or aren’t) more inaccurate these days. It only means that people think so.
But perhaps it’s more a reflection on people who turn increasingly to news sources that they think will report stories the way they want to hear them (Let me save you the trouble of posting the predictable comment: Yes, I know some people think this is why liberals tend to listen to Public Radio).
The other day we got an e-mail from someone who claimed we were covering up the story that global warming was created in a conspiracy between the liberal media and the United Nations in order to effect a redistribution of wealth. To prove it, he noted that he read about it on the Internet, not in the liberal media.
Well, OK, that’s one for the power of the Internet.
Today’s survey is even more puzzling. The headline:
Health Care Debate Seen as “Rude and Disrespectful”
So far, so good. According to Pew, 53% of those surveyed said the health care debate has been rude and disrespectful. Sixteen percent said they didn’t know how to characterize it.
Thirty-one percent said the debate has been polite and respectful. That should be the takeaway. It’s true, those most likely to be accused of being rude and disrespectful — in this case, Republicans — are also the most likely to disagree. And the survey showed that, indeed, 44 percent of them said the debate has been polite and respectful. But 24% of Democrats agreed with the assessment.
Democrats, however, are much more likely to put the blame for the lack of civility on opponents of health care legislation. Forty-five percent of Republicans say they’re at fault.
Who are these people? Pew doesn’t say. But we can deduce that 17% of those surveyed weren’t paying any attention to what was going on. Only eighty-three percent said they’d heard “a little or a lot” about Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” moment, a news story that was nearly impossible to miss.
(Photo: A driver shows his polite side on Robert St. in West St. Paul on Wednesday. Click the image for a larger view).